With Brexit coming into effect, Scotland have a democratic right to rethink their decision about independence, writes Brion Hoban.
On March 13th, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced her intention to hold a referendum on Scottish independence on a date between autumn 2018 and spring 2019.
She cited the United Kingdom’s Government refusing to compromise and opting for a ‘hard’ Brexit as the key factors for a second referendum being needed.
The Scottish National Party’s 2016 manifesto declares that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum “if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will."
Scotland voted by 55% to 45% to remain a member of the United Kingdom in 2014. It also voted by 62% to 38% to remain a member of the European Union in 2016.
Unfortunately, only one of these democratic decisions is being allowed to stand. The disregard for the will of Scottish voters to remain within the EU exposes the campaign promise from 2014 that it would be an equal partner to England as being untrue.
Prime Minister Theresa May accused Sturgeon of playing politics at a time that could have dangerous consequences for the country. Interestingly, she never accused David Cameron of doing something similar when he announced the Brexit referendum.
There have been rumblings that a second independence referendum is unnecessary so soon after the first. Why ask the people of Scotland a question they have already answered?
England is too old a country to possess this little understanding of democracy. The idea that a people might vote differently due to a massive change in circumstances is a very simple democratic concept. By the same logic being employed by Conservative politicians, one could argue that there need never be elections again, as the people have already made it clear who they wanted to represent them during the last election.
When Scotland chose to remain in the Union in 2014, one of the key selling points was that an independent Scotland might not be allowed to remain within the European Union. Suddenly, the chunk of the population who were swayed by this argument find themselves being dragged out of the EU against their will. One imagines they might vote differently in a second referendum.
Nicola Sturgeon has timed the proposed date for a second referendum perfectly. It will come after the Government has worked out the precise terms for Brexit, but before it actually takes place. This will mean that the people of Scotland will get to vote whether they wish to remain within the United Kingdom while knowing exactly how good or bad Brexit is likely to be for them.
This novel concept of allowing voters to make an informed decision is a cornerstone of democracy and would ensure that this referendum is more democratically sound than the one that ended up passing Brexit last year.
May has said that “now is not the time” for a second referendum, and her Government may attempt to block the vote taking place. This has not gone down well with Scottish nationalists. “It is an argument for independence really in a nutshell, that Westminster thinks it has got the right to block the democratically elected mandate of the Scottish government and the majority in the Scottish Parliament,” said Nicola Sturgeon.
"You know history may look back on today and see it as the day the fate of the union was sealed." History may alternatively look back on the day the UK narrowly voted to leave the EU as the day it doomed itself irrevocably.